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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Modelling medieval masonry construction: taxa-specific and habitat-contingent Bayesian techniques for the interpretation of radiocarbon data from Mortar-Entrapped Relict Limekiln Fuels
Author(s): Thacker, Mark
Issue Date: 2021
Date Deposited: 6-Oct-2021
Citation: Thacker M (2021) Modelling medieval masonry construction: taxa-specific and habitat-contingent Bayesian techniques for the interpretation of radiocarbon data from Mortar-Entrapped Relict Limekiln Fuels. Heritage Science, 9 (1), Art. No.: 58.
Abstract: Using data from simulated and actual case studies, this paper assesses the accuracy and precision of Bayesian estimates for the constructional date of medieval masonry buildings, generated from the radiocarbon evidence returned by different assemblages of wood-charcoal mortar-entrapped relict limekiln fuel (MERLF). The results from two theoretical studies demonstrate how Bayesian model specifications can be varied to generate a chronologically continuous spectrum of distributions from radiocarbon datasets subject Inbuilt Age (IA). Further analysis suggests that the potential for these distributions to contain the date of the constructional event depends largely upon the accuracy of the latest radiocarbon determination within each dataset, while precision is predicated on dataset age range, dataset size and model specification. These theoretical studies inform revised approaches to the radiocarbon evidence emerging from six culturally important Scottish medieval masonry buildings, each of which is associated with a wood-charcoal MERLF assemblage of different botanical character. The Bayesian estimates generated from these radiocarbon datasets are remarkably consistent with the historical and archaeological evidence currently associated with these sites, while age range distributions suggest the IA of each MERLF assemblage has been constrained by the taxa-specific and environmentally contingent lifespans and post-mortem durabilities of the limekiln fuel source. These studies provide further evidence that Bayesian techniques can generate consistently accurate chronological estimates for the construction of medieval masonry buildings from MERLF radiocarbon data, whatever the ecological provenance of the limekiln fuel source. Estimate precision is contingent upon source ecology and craft technique but can be increased by a more informed approach to materials analysis and interpretation.
DOI Link: 10.1186/s40494-021-00568-3
Rights: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
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